While Japanese engineering firm Honda is most well known for its motorbikes, Honda cars have quietly been taking over the world of motoring since 1963. Honda’s vision is based on its founder’s desire to build high-performance vehicles, and this has extended throughout all of its ranges.
While Honda’s first non-motorcycle vehicles were based on small vans and used cycle-style chain drives, modern Honda cars are designed with the public’s growing environmental awareness in mind. A wide range of compact models and hybrid vehicles are available, and for several years now, Honda has decreased its production of SUVs and minivans to match a changing market. In fact, five of the ten most fuel-efficient cars of the first decade of the 21st century were from Honda.
As well as hybrid petrol/electric cars, Honda offers its customers a choice of low-emission petrol vehicles as standard. Throughout the world, local options for more innovative fuel solutions are also available. In some parts the United States, for example, the Honda Civic GX model, designed to run solely on natural gas, is available. This reduces emissions still further, and is one of the cleanest forms of internal combustion known.
The Brazilian market has flexible fuel options that can run on either light petrol or fuel alcohol. These have been so popular that this specification is now standard across Honda production for Brazil. On the other hand, only a small number of people in the United States, UK and Europe have access to the most high-tech Honda option: hydrogen fuel cells, in the form of the FCX Clarity. These are only available in regions where hydrogen fuelling stations are located, severely limiting their spread, but they are practically non-polluting and extremely efficient.
Honda’s focus for its cars in recent years has been efficiency and economy. This may have been affected by Honda’s absence from the racing circuits, which it moved away from in 2008. However, trickle-down effects from high performance sports designs may once again feed through to general production after 2015, when Honda plans to return to Formula 1 racing.
Honda’s experience in robotics may also be a useful trait if the Google-led trend for non-driver vehicles begins to gain traction. Honda is better placed than many car manufacturers to take advantage of the new technologies on offer because of its breadth of engineering experience in artificial intelligence, and it will be interesting to watch how these synergies develop over time.